Charlene Morisseau

New York Observer logo small Above the Law blog.jpgIn our column for this week’s New York Observer, we help you plan an imaginary dinner party. A dinner party, of course, is only as good as the guest list. So we review which colorful characters of the legal world, who made headlines in 2007, should be invited to your festivities.
Think of it as a “year in review” piece, aimed primarily at people who don’t read ATL (since most of the names mentioned in the article will be familiar to regular visitors to this site). The potential guests under consideration: Charlene Morisseau, the sassy ex-associate who sued DLA Piper; Aaron Charney, who made S&C “bend over”; and internet celebrity Loyola 2L.
ATL bonus content: Due to space considerations, our write-up of Elana Glatt (née Elana Elbogen) wound up on the cutting room floor. But if you’d like to read it, we’ve reprinted it after the jump.
Culture of Complaint Spreads Through Law Firms [New York Observer]

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Charlene Morisseau 2 Charlene Morrisseau Charlene Morriseau DLA Piper Harvard Law School Southern Center for Human Rights.JPGFormer DLA Piper associate Charlene Morisseau isn’t just our Lawyer of the Day. This high-powered litigatrix — a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and a former editor of the Harvard Law Review — should be hailed as a heroine by Biglaw associates everywhere.

From a most engaging article by Anthony Lin, in the New York Law Journal:

A Manhattan federal judge has thrown out a race discrimination suit brought against DLA Piper by a former associate who claimed the firm’s New York office was a hostile work environment.

Charlene Morisseau, a 2001 graduate of Harvard Law School, where she was a law review editor, joined DLA Piper as a litigation associate in April 2003 but was asked to leave less than a year later. In a lawsuit filed last year, Ms. Morisseau, who is black, claimed her firing was retaliation for complaints she had made about discriminatory treatment.

She requested almost $250 million in damages from the firm and the 11 partners she individually named in the suit.

Now, we’re all in favor of giving associates more money. But $250 million may be a bit much, even for a Harvard Law grad. It’s about 90 percent of DLA Piper’s total firm profits for 2006 ($280 million).

But it looks like Morisseau won’t be seeing a dime:

Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan granted summary judgment to the firm Monday, finding that DLA Piper had put forth a “legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for plaintiff’s termination.”

“Here, the uncontradicted evidence demonstrates that plaintiff did not perform in a manner satisfactory to Piper notwithstanding her academic credentials,” the judge wrote. “She was a confrontational, stubborn, and insubordinate employee in an environment in which professional personal relations, flexibility and a willingness to accept supervision were essential.”

Now we’ve reached the good part. Here’s why Charlene Morisseau should be every associate’s idol:

[I]n court filings, DLA Piper denied treating Ms. Morisseau differently and said the firm had taken action because the ex-associate had exhibited a pattern of unacceptable behavior, including yelling at partners and throwing one out of her office.

The firm said Ms. Morisseau ordered former partner Marilla Ochis to “back up” out of her office after Ms. Ochis had come to discuss an e-mail exchange Ms. Morisseau had apparently taken offense to.

Have you ever fantasized about telling off your partner oppressors? Well, Charlene Morisseau has lived your dream — and then some.

Read the rest, after the jump.

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